On the morning of Thursday April 5, while most students were getting ready to head to class, the Wisconsin Fellows in Enterprise Development were just arriving in Milwaukee for the annual Fellows Field Trip. Twelve of us Fellows, along with Dan Olszewski and Lisa Collins, were excited for a packed day visiting many different companies in Milwaukee’s thriving entrepreneurship community.
Our first stop was at Xela Innovations, where we had the chance to meet with Todd Muderlak (WAVE ’99). This was a highlight of the day for many, since Todd was such a dynamic speaker with an engaging story about his path to entrepreneurship. In 2009, Xela created the brand Pūrleve, which designs and sells products for the commercial washroom. The company is using breakthrough technologies in many of its new products, ranging from cloud computing to IoT and everything in between. Its innovative product portfolio includes the Hygienic Door Handle, which ensures sanitation by automatically advancing a new antimicrobial material over the door handle after each and every use. Not only did the Fellows get to learn about a new industry, but we also benefited from hearing many of the lessons that Todd learned during his path to entrepreneurship. The importance of networking, surrounding oneself with great employees and partners, and continuously learning new skills and industries, were just some of the many key factors to Todd’s success.
Next, the Fellows arrived at Ward4, Milwaukee’s co-working space for entrepreneurs, startups, venture capital-backed companies, and small to mid-sized businesses. We took a tour of the space and learned about the resources and events that Ward4 provides to its members and the greater Milwaukee entrepreneurship community. Ward4 also houses gener8tor, a nationally ranked accelerator that invests in high-growth startups. We learned about some of the companies that graduated from the program, and about how gener8tor has grown to become one of the most respected accelerators in the country.
Before the meetings continued, everyone was hungry and excited to eat lunch at FreshFin Poké. One of our current Fellows and WAVE student, Andrew Foster (OTM ’18), is a partner at FreshFin, and will be opening up their newest location in Madison after graduation. When we arrived at the restaurant, we heard from founder Nate Arkush before eating our delicious poké in a comfortable and inviting fast casual setting. It was a great meal and we all left the restaurant feeling satisfied and excited for the Madison location to open up in a few months.
Our next step was at Scanalytics, Inc., whose office is housed at the historic Blatz Brewery building. Scanalytics is a fast growing Internet of Things (IoT) company, measuring insights from smart floor sensors. We heard from co-founder & CEO, Joe Scanlin, and learned about how important it is to consider the long-term view of your business over time. While the company could have focused on selling the floor sensor hardware, Scanlin believes that their real product is the analytics and insights derived from the sensors. Not only can this help to plan layouts of current buildings and office spaces, but it can impact the design of future spaces that have yet to be built.
We then walked back to Ward4, where we met with Richard Yau, co-founder & CEO of Bright Cellars. Bright Cellars is a monthly wine subscription company that utilizes machine learning to match users with wines they will love. Yau and his co-founder started the company after graduating from MIT. They have continued to evolve over time, and now they even have some of their own successful wine brands.
Our final visit of the day was with Access HealthNet, a successful healthcare IT startup. We met with co-founder & CEO, Eric Haberichter, who helped launch the company in 2014. Access HealthNet is revolutionizing the way people shop for healthcare procedures. Using this technology platform, healthcare providers name their own price for medical procedures, allowing patients and employers to save money without compromising the quality of healthcare being offered. Haberichter’s story was a great example of someone who identified a problem and would not stop until he created a solution.
All of the Fellows had a great day learning from some of the top entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial community in Milwaukee.
We are extremely grateful to Xela Innovations, Ward4, gener8tor, FreshFin Poké, Scanalytics, Bright Cellars, and Access HealthNet for hosting us and being generous with their time.